Although the ethics hearing held against Gwinnett Commissione Marlene Fosque was intended to determine whether she acted unethically by publicly criticizing Dustin Inman Society founder D.A. King’s participation in a 287(g) forum, the elephant in the room kept raising its head.
That elephant was the debate over U.S. immigration policy and the role of race in that debate.
“They were trying to make that case on some things that we don’t think are relative to our determination,” ethics board chairman David Will said after the hearing. “It’s not a public forum where we’re having a discussion on that. We’re trying to decide, based on (King’s) complaint, did it violate the code of ethics.”
Although testimony and closing arguments in the ethics hearing wrapped up Thursday, the panel that conducted the hearing is scheduled to reconvene for one more day this week to deliberate and try to reach a decision on whether Fosque’s comments about King violated the county’s ethics policy.
At the Aug. 6 county commission meeting, Fosque cited a Southern Poverty Law Center assessment of the Dustin Inman Society as an anti-immigrant hate group as she denounced King’s participation in the forum.
Fosque hosted the forum, but left the selection of pro-287(g) panelists up to the Gwinnett Sheriff’s Office.
“I have no malice toward you, I don’t know you,” Fosque told King as she testified Thursday. “What my intentions were was to talk to the great citizens of Gwinnett County and tell them who we were not, and also to be able to express to the citizens, my constituents who I represent, that I didn’t invite you.”
Time and again on Thursday, Will had to reign in King and Fosque’s attorney, Steve Reilly, during the questioning of witnesses as queries kept drifting back to the topic of U.S. immigration policy and the immigration movement.
Several statements made by King over the years were brought up during the hearing.
“Here, very clearly, the words spoken by Mr. King ... do in fact lend themselves to, at the very least, to the formation of opinions by others that those words, acts and affiliations are expressions, certainly appear to be expressions, of hatred, bigotry and intimidation and, yes, even appear racist,” Reilly said in his closing statement.
Those comments led to the Southern Poverty Law Center labeling the Dustin Inman Society as an anti-immigrant hate group. It’s an assertion that King contests, even calling the SPLC a “discredited organization.”
As Reilly brought up King’s previous statements, King said those comments were taken out of context.
“In general, if somebody stands up and says ‘We should enforce immigration laws’ all someone has to do is label them as anti-immigrant and get the SPLC to print one or two sentences from 700 or 800 words that you wrote 15 years ago, poof, you’re the one on trial,” King said in his closing statement.
Gwinnett Sheriff Butch Conway, who invited King to be one of three pro-287(g) panelists at the forum hosted by Fosque last summer said he does not believe King was a racist.
Conway explained that he has known King for years. The sheriff said he considers King an expert on immigration matters and that, although King lives in Cobb County, his work impacts Gwinnett.
“I would have to say D.A. King has done work in Gwinnett,” Conway said. “He’s been an adviser to me for a dozen years now (in regard to) 287(g) and immigration matters.”